Ishmael: Name That President

January 22nd, 2017

Name that President

President’s have nicknames. It’s a great American tradition. Tricky Dick. Dutch. Slick Willy. Dubya. No Drama Obama.

Face it, it’s gonna be a long dreary slog through the next four years. A good nickname for Big Man Trump (has anyone else noticed how much more of him there is now than when he started his campaign?) can help lighten the load.

The irony here is that our new president is the master of the nickname. Crooked Hillary. Lyin’ Ted. Little Marco. And he did it so well because his whole business enterprise is based on naming, on branding things. Trump University. Trump steaks. Trump ties. Trump codpieces.

I’m sure that a man who so well understands the power of labels would appreciate our efforts, endorse our decision.

So to paraphrase Michelle Obama, when they go low, we go lower. It is time to nickname the President.

I propose a Third City contest. First prize, a free online subscription to this publication. Second prize, two subscriptions. Hell, I’ll even donate all of my Third City royalties to the winners.

Peter Sargent, of Gardener, Esther Moerth, Kathleen Leonard, Patti Scutari, Mary Thomas, Donna Horn and Linn McConarty, all of Wendell, knit pink "Pussy Hats" at Deja Brew in Wendell, as part of an effort to make hats for attendees of Women's Marches in Boston, Washington and New York City, Wednesday, January 18, 2017. The knitting group has made 46 hats so far.

It will give you something to talk about as you knit your pussy hats…


To get your creative juices flowing and get you started, here are some sample nicknames for our new president:

Comrade Trump.

Little Hands.

Grab ‘em by the Trump.

Creepy Donald.

Fat Donald.

Putin’s Poodle

Trump the Hump.

Billion Dollar Cry Baby.

See. It’s fun!

We could even help the new president nickname his cabinet. We already have the excellent “Mad Dog” for Secretary of Defense. How about “Betsy Botox” for our new Secretary of Education? “Robo Scab” for the Secretary of Labor? “Dim Bulb” for the Secretary of Energy? “Cayman” for the Secretary of the Treasury?

That’s fun too!

We can even name that segment of the population that got him elected, put him over the top: The Trumpen Proletariat!

But lets stay focused. We start with the President. Just add your suggestions to the comments section at the bottom of this column. Submit as many as you like.

Benny Jay and Milo will sort through the thousands of entries and narrow it down to the best dozen or so. Then we’ll convene a town hall meeting at McCormick Center to discuss them and vote. The winner will be announced right here at the Third City.

Do it for the Third City! Do it for America! Do it to stay sane.


Editor’s Note: Ishamel’s last post for the Third City was Blame Trump on the Cubs




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Jim Siergey: The March

January 22nd, 2017

The day the woman-molesting, disabled-mocking, tax-evading, press-hating, perpetually prevaricating possible puppet of Putin was sworn in as Prez of the U.S., it was, fittingly, damp, dark, drizzly and dank.

Conversely as well as fittingly, it was a bright sunny day almost everywhere that millions of women throughout the United States and around the world marched and rallied for recognition of their rights and disapproval of the new president’s words and actions.

In Chicago, for example, it was blue skies, sunshine and nearly 60 degrees…in January! Was it merely meteorological coincidence or divine providence? You make the call.

The morning of the march, five women who have been nearly lifetime friends, gathered at our house to assemble and embark downtown. I, of course, who was Alan Alda before Alan Alda became Alan Alda (an archaic reference perhaps but an apt one just the same as I have long been a supporter of equality) was joining in, as I hoped many other members of the male species would as well.

After we climbed the stairs to the Irving Park stop on the Brown Line, we discovered that the platform was filled with people, mostly but not entirely, of the female persuasion. Each of the train cars was packed, sardine-like during the entire trip to the Loop.

As we walked up Adams to the Art Institute we were met with a glistening throng of humanity. It was quite a sight to see. Our little septet of participants became separated as we mingled and snaked our way through the throng but there was an overwhelming zeitgeist of harmony engulfing and welcoming all of us.

Reportedly, 250,000 people showed up at this Women’s March. The actual march was called off because of the size. There just wasn’t any room to march so it became a rally, a gathering of like-minded souls intent on protecting the rights of women as well as concerned with the rights of all not being trampled in this fevered rush to inexplicably make America great again.

Despite the determination and distrust felt by this crowd toward the new regime, it was a very, very (to use two of The Donald’s favorite adjectives) peaceful gathering. No pushing, shoving or verbal conflicts took place. The police stood by in relaxed, almost casual poses. I saw one officer hand back a phone to someone who had asked him to snap a photo of her.

The crowd, predominately female, was diverse in race and age. There were toddlers on shoulders and oldsters in wheelchairs. Occasional chanting was heard, homemade signs were displayed and a universal feeling of cheerfulness and sisterhood (and brotherhood) was felt.

Drones and copters filled the sky. Each time a copter flew overheard, a cheery roar would erupt from the crowd. I espied a trio of balloons, one red, one white and one blue, escape and float up into the cloudless blue of the sky. I don’t know why but it made me smile.

IMGA00031That about sums it all up…


There were a lot of signs. Here are a few of my favorites:

Our Minds, Our Bodies, Our Power

Democracy is FUN!

Stay Healthy, Justice Ginsburg

Viva La Vulva!

Ho’s Before Bro’s/Uteruses Before Duderuses/Ovaries Before Brovaries

Girls just want to have FUN-damental Rights!

And a very small one, complete with attached small holding stick that read: “Tiny hands, Tiny mind, Tiny man, Tiny sign”.

In a couple of different areas that we had shuffled to, shuffling being the main form of ambulation, the pungent aroma of reefer could be smelled. The three of us that had stuck together had ambled down Michigan Avenue to Van Buren Street. We decided to double back to Jackson as it looked like something was happening there. A lot of the crowd had begun directing their feet in that direction.

As we eventually turned down Jackson Boulevard, which is a canyon between tall buildings, we were engulfed in shade. Despite it being the 21st of January, the cooling shade was a welcome relief from the hour or so spent in relentless sunshine. At times, a roar would erupt from the back and because of the enclosed area, would move over us like a vocal wave all the way to the front of the multitude.

It was buoyant and invigorating. I looked up and espied a boy in the window of one of the highrises holding a sign that read ‘We support our moms’. That, on top of the incredible turnout gave me a glimmer of hope. Perhaps these next years would not be a complete morass of backwardness or worse.

It’ll take vigilance and energy but maybe the future will be, like today, so bright that we’ll have to wear shades.


Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was The Dick

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Ishmael: Blame Trump On The Cubs

January 15th, 2017

We did it and we apologize.

I mean us, Chicago Cubs fans. We wanted a Championship. We deserved it, suffered for it, kept the faith, and finally we got it after 108 years, by far the longest drought in all of major league sports.

We’re sorry.

Unlike those idiot Red Sox fans, we were always nice, never mean or sullen when glory failed to come our way. As a third-generation Cubs fan told me just a few seasons ago, “I’ll give them another hundred years, and that’s it”.

I grew up rooting for the Dodgers in the 60s, and for three decades, we had more than our share of titles. But then I moved to Chicago and fell in love with the North Side team. They were pathetic. Chicago loved them like a three-legged dog, and I loved Chicagoans for it.

We never really believed our boys could win it all, but we hoped. When the Cubs blew it in 2003—the famous Bartman incident where a fan merely reaching for a foul ball caused the entire team to become Little Leaguers—we understood. We didn’t like it, but we knew we were not supposed to be champs, maybe not ever, our children too. We were cursed.

cubscelebratingseriesThey did it–in more ways than one…


But still we still hoped, modestly, quietly, like true children of the prairies, like solid Midwesterners. Sure, a few grew cynical. “Theo Epstein did it in Boston, maybe he can get it done here,” I told my friend John when the Cubs hired a new general manager. “We’ll break him like a dry twig,” John replied.

Early in the 2016 season, with all of the experts saying the Cubs were the team to beat, I had lunch with a man who has been a fan since the 1940s. He even has the yellowing scorecards to prove it.

Our voices low, we secretly confessed it to each other: We weren’t sure we wanted to be Champs. We might gain a trophy and lose our souls.

But as the season went on, it was impossible for Cubs fans not to believe. September came and we knew for sure that we’d make the playoffs, there was no way to blow it now. October, and wonders to behold, we made it past the Giants and the Dodgers, to a place we’d not been since 1945, the World Series.

Then came November and the Cubbies were still playing ball, something that never happened before. Ever! Could it be there was no curse—no curse of the billy goat, of the black cat, of Bartman?

And there it was: The World Champion Chicago Cubs!

There was no curse!


What we didn’t know, couldn’t know, was that curses don’t disappear, don’t end. They migrate, they move on. Yes, we Cubs fans were released, but whatever it was that cursed us for a century went out into the world looking for new ways to blight humankind.

The Cubs won the World Series on November 2.

Six days later, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States.

Think about it on Inauguration Day.


Editor’s Note: This is Ishmael’s first post for Third City.

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Jim Siergey: The Dick

January 14th, 2017

Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States. He is also the only U.S. President with an asterisk next to his name.

It’s not there because he once hit 61 home runs in a single season. Far from it. That asterisk is affixed there because he was the only president to resign from the office in utter humiliation and disgrace.

So far, anyway.

There’s a fast-rising newcomer who has an excellent opportunity to join Tricky Dick in the Presidential Hall of Infamy… but time will tell.

Yep, Tricky Dick was his nickname. He was a master of political prestidigitation, a bottom of the deck dealer whose sleeves were hardly empty and who once moved a nation to tears by pulling a cocker spaniel out of a hat. That feat, however, was not the beginning to his checkered career.

That began back in the late 1940s when he was a U. S. Representative from California serving on the HUAC committee. HUAC, of course, was an acronym for Commie Witch Hunt.

Nixon first earned his moniker in the Alger Hiss case where he used his ledgerdemanic skills to conjure up film of State Department official Hiss having sex with a hammer and sickle-tattooed pumpkin in a field that was littered with papers bearing a TOP SECRET stamp.

Hiss went to jail and Nixon went to the Senate.

jimsiergeynixonThe Trickster by Jim Siergey…
Tricky Dick, as he was then predominately known, had a tough Senate race in 1950. His opponent was Helen Gahagan Douglas, an actress and the first Democratic woman elected to Congress in California. In Nixon’s eyes, her having been an actress already pushed her over to the line that was painted red—Communist!

Dick played the Pinko Commie card as a full house with aces high. He distributed anti-Douglas leaflets on pink paper and called her “The Pink Lady” who was pink right down to her underwear. He went so far as to claim that even her blood was pink, the same blood that was coming out of her eyes and…wherever.

That final tactic never fails to seal the deal in a political contest.

Nixon was a natural for political cartoonists with his hunched shoulders, beady eyes, ski slope nose and five o’clock shadowed jowls. His demeanor and voice kept comedic impersonators in business for years. His looks, however, never thwarted him from his feverish climb to the top of the mountain of public acceptance.

In 1960, after serving for eight years as Vice President and first poodle to Likable Ike Eisenhower, Nixon and his cartoonish countenance went up against matinee idol John F. Kennedy in a run for the Presidency of the United States. In a close election, Tricky Dick lost out to JFK, having been out-tricked by Daddy Daley…allegedly.

He then ran for Governor of California in 1962 where he again was defeated. This loss prompted his famous saying of “Fuck you, assholes, I’m outta here!”

However, six years later, having the stake pulled out of his heart by vampire whisperer Bebe Rebozo, Nixon once again ran for President. Americans, not wishing to have a namby-pamby anti-war toe-sucker leading their country, rallied around and elected the paranoiac and delusional voodoo man as their leader.

During his presidency, the Trickster extended the war from Viet Nam into Cambodia, selected a new China pattern for the White House (his table cloth removal act was rusty and all the old China had to be replaced), had V.P. Spiro Agnew attempt to alliterate the Soviet Union into submission, let Henry Kissinger loose onto the world and invented The Silent Majority.

Bored with his imminent landslide re-election victory in 1972, Dick decided to pull another trick by taking a page from David Copperfield’s magic playbook and attempted to make the Democratic National Headquarters disappear by sawing the Watergate Hotel in half.

This trick failed miserably and Dick’s attempts to cover up the partially bisected hotel backfired beyond comprehension. Public outrage led to a Senate committee that was curiously staffed with carpenters, electricians and plumbers.

The televised hearings reached Number One in the Nielsen Ratings so it was extended for a second season. Nixon, his sleight of hand getting slighter by the episode, decided to cash in his chips and fold. He resigned the Presidency on August 9, 1974 and retired to his oceanside home in Yorba Linda, California where he would sit for hours on end in a darkened room with a VCR and watch his ‘Rosebud’, a looped tape of his Laugh-In appearance.

The ninth of January would have been Dick Nixon’s 104th birthday and he’s still getting it socked to him.


Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Musical Airs

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Chris Lamberti: Sox Blogger on the Run

January 13th, 2017

 “So what you think?” asked Gus the bartender, after serving me up another morning screwdriver at the local dive that bore his name.

“About the White Sox trading Chris Sale and Adam Eaton?” I said. The Sox had begun to rebuild their roster by trading their best players for young, up and comers.

“Yah,” said the barkeep.

“And trying to trade Jose Quintana, Jose Abreu, David Robertson, and Todd Frazier?” Rumor had it there were more deals to come.

“Yah,” he said again.

“I hope the kids they get will one day be as good as Chris Sale, Adam Eaton, Jose Quintana, Jose Abreu, David Robertson, and Todd Frazier.”

“Yah, right. And then they’ll be back to winning 75 games a season and all will be right with the world.”

“You know, Gus,” I said with a sigh, “we pay for Jerry Reinsdorf’s ballpark, and he won’t pay for a contender. Where’s the justice in that?”

“There is none. He’s a swindler,” said Gus about the Sox owner. “Say, speaking of swindlers, Benny Jay was in here looking for you the other day. He says you owe him a blog post.”

“What else is new?” I acted disinterested. But the truth was, I was nervous. I was the Third City’s baseball blogger and I hadn’t submitted anything in weeks. The blog’s sleazy advertisers were no doubt breathing down Benny’s neck, and he’d do more than breath down mine.

“You better watch your ass,” said Gus. “When was the last time you saw Milo?”

Milo was Benny Jay’s partner in the massive internet operation that was the Third City blogging empire. They ruled the blogosphere with an iron fist, and sometimes that required Milo to break some fingers.

“He caught me sleeping on a beach in Mexico,” I answered. “I’d been putting eyes on winter league prospects and emailing unsolicited scouting reports to the White Sox front office, and asking for money. I didn’t get any response and was living hand to mouth.”

“Tough beat,” said Gus.

“Someone at the Sox front office must have tipped Milo. He surprised me as I was taking a siesta at low tide with some seagulls.”

“What’d you do?” Gus asked.

“One thing about Milo, he’s hell on dry land but can’t swim a lick,” I explained. “So I hit the surf and hitched a ride on a passing fishing skiff. I gave him the slip.”

chrissaleLet’s hope the new Chris Sale’s as good as the old one…


Just then, my cellphone buzzed on the bar top. Carelessly, I picked up without looking at the caller ID.

“Yah,” I groaned into the phone.

“Are these new White Sox prospects gonna be any good?”

It was Benny Jay, and his tone was no-nonsense.

“I dunno, I’ll let you know in a few years,” I quipped.

“The hell you will,” said Benny. “I need 600 words from you by three this afternoon!”

“Yah, you bet Benny, I’ll get right on it,” I said, in a way that suggested he shouldn’t hold his breath.

I clicked off the phone and went back to my drink. For the next hour, I made more small talk with Gus, until I heard a voice behind me.

“Hola amigo, missed you in Mexico.”

I recognized the low growl as Milo’s.

“How’d you track me here?” I asked, without turning to face him.

“Benny Jay installed call tracing software on the Third City office phones.”

It figured. If Benny Jay put half the money he spent running down bloggers into paying them, they wouldn’t be so hard to find.

“We want that post. Submit it by three or…”

“Or what?” I interrupted, with as much scorn as I could muster.

“Or I’m gonna sap your squash with a sledge!”

“I don’t even know what that means,” I protested.

“Let’s keep it that way,” said Milo.

Milo turned to walk out of the bar. After he left, I was hit with a sudden urge to get out of town. I paid my tab and exchanged niceties with Gus.

An hour later, I jumped a bus at the station and took my squash down to Mexico. There was still a week left of the season down there. If I saw any diamonds in the rough, I’d let the White Sox know about it.

But my amigos, Benny Jay and Milo, wouldn’t know nada. And that was fine by me.


Editor’s Note: Chris’s last post for The Third City was Make My Browser Say Trump Again…

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Jim Siergey: Musical Airs

January 10th, 2017

I was watching one of those BBC mysteries on the telly. This particular scene was set in a fair ground. As the dialogue by the characters was taking place, in the background one could faintly hear music being played by a band.

Just so I can set the tableau for you, it wasn’t a rock band, it was one of those bands that one would see in an English Faire, clad in marching band uniforms and playing brass instruments, that sort of thing. One couldn’t see them in the scene, of course, but that was the type of music being played.

The melody was very familiar. I found myself not listening to the dialogue and focusing on the music. I couldn’t place it but it was a lilt I had heard many times in my life.

Eventually, I found myself remembering lyrics. “Here’s to the crabgrass/Here’s to the mortgage/In fact, here’s to suburbia…” It was an Allen Sherman song!

It wasn’t his song, but his lyrics that he put to the music of someone else’s song. This particular ditty was on his album, “My Son, the Nut” from 1963. It was the first and only album I ever owned (until 1965 when I bought Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited”) and I played it (and eventually, them) constantly.

For those not in the know, Allen Sherman was a song parodist. He would rewrite lyrics to old standards in an amusing manner. He was quite a hit back in his day. Short, fat, bespectacled and sporting a crewcut, he was a much less hipper version of today’s Weird Al Yankovic.

Actually, Weird Al is a hipper version of he.

allenshermancelebrityThe great Mr. Sherman…


Usually, Sherman’s songs were based on old recognizable standards like “You Came a Long Way from St. Louis”, “C’est Si Bon”, “Rag Mop”, “What Kind of Fool Am I?” and the like but this particular tune I could not place. So, the next day, I did some research, that is, I went to the computer and brought up Google.

“Here’s to the Crabgrass” is based on an old English folk song entitled “Country Gardens”. Hence, it was quite a fitting piece of music to be played at an English country fair. I also learned that Jimmie Rodgers (but not THE Jimmie Rodgers) recorded a version of the song called “English Country Garden” which reached Number 5 on the UK charts in June of 1962.

Isn’t it interesting how culture comes to us at different ages? When I became aware of Allen Sherman’s songs as a 12 year old, I did not know who either of the Jimmie Rodgerses were, much less English folk songs. My recognition of this old tune was birthed via Allen Sherman in 1963.

During the musical British Invasion of the mid-1960s, most of America’s youth grooved on the new sound, eventually learning that the new-to-them tunes being rocked out by The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds and The Animals, et al. were actually old American blues songs that had been around for years.

It’s a clear case of Cultural Jet Lag, if I may be so bold as to name drop that descriptive term, which continues from generation to generation. Lore is learned from the present, n’est-ce pas?

I remember one time when I was sitting in my living room and the family was watching the Ed Sullivan Show or some such musical variety program (there were many of them on the air in the mid-60s) and a singer began crooning the Meredith Wilson song, “Til There Was You”.

I, of course, at the time did not know it was a Meredith Wilson-penned song. My frame of reference was based on the now, not the then so I dared speak up and uttered “That’s a Beatles song.” as the Fab Four had, indeed, covered that tune.

From behind me, my father growled in a voice that seemed to come from the bowels of Hell, “No, it’s not!” and smacked me in the head with his newspaper.

Knowledge don’t always come easy.


Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Heavens To Murgatroyd

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Grabowski: Goodbye, Grandpa Frank

January 6th, 2017

My wife left town to visit her 102 year-old Grandpa Frank because hospice was involved and he was likely in his last days.

I stayed back with the kids.

On the first night, I arrived home from daycare pick up, set 18-month Owen down and he immediately grabbed a Weeble Wobble from the ground, sprinted to the bathroom and dropped it in the toilet, looking up at me smiling.

Three-and-a-half year-old Cora ate the majority of a shredded cheddar cheese quesadilla that she helped me make standing in her tower, from which she commanded me to place the cheese in the shape of a smiley face and politely requested to eat a little chunk of butter while we watched it cook.

Later, she followed me to watch me change Owen’s stinky and liquid diarrhea diaper, leaning over from her step stool with a miniature play bottle of La Preferida salsa in hand, telling me she was going to pour some hot sauce on his butt.

As I read Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree to Cora in the corner of her room, Owen was in play mode, interrupting us every 30 seconds, for example by bringing me his toy lawnmower and grunting for me to turn it on, and several times climbing onto the bed, getting a running start and jumping into my arms like Superman.

Ahmad Jamal in 1959Poinciana by Ahmad Jamal is so classy…


He fell asleep quickly, though, with plastic air-filled bouncy house balls in each hand, as usual.

Cora, however, insisted on going to bed staring at her two battery-powered, light-up Christmas night-lights, tossing and turning for 45 minutes. I finally went in to broker a deal where she agreed to turn them off (by herself) as long as I would sneak into Owen’s room to get her Owl lantern back.

Everything went off without a hitch.

We told each other that we love each other every minute of every day, and I was successfully able to leave her door open the proper and acceptable amount on my third or fourth try.

I went down into my basement office and bought some music on iTunes, including The Cramps Human Fly because Owen heard it on WZRD around Halloween and seemed to fancy it, and this classy Jazz tune Poinciana by Ahmad Jamal.

The next night, my wife Facetimed us and I showed Grandpa Frank around the house: our decorated Christmas tree and the kids jumping up and down on the bed. Cora put on her pink cowboy boots and pink cowboy hat, and rode around on her stick horse yelling “yee-haw!”

Although just the day before Grandpa Frank was able to get out of his bed on his own and could carry on conversations, by this point he was bed ridden and barely able to open his eyes.

He apparently enjoyed the tour and seeing the kids and smiled several times during the call. Later that same night he passed away.

After the initial sadness, I was at least comforted that he went peacefully and with a smile, surrounded in person by his daughter and grand daughter, and that he lived a long life keeping a strong mind and body until his last few breaths.


Editor’s Note: Grabowski’s last post for The Third City was Grandma

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